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SLFG trip to Grimsthorpe Park 12th May 2018

The SLFG had an excellent trip to Grimesthorpe Park last Saturday 12th May, accompanied by the ranger, Chris Howes who showed us round some very high quality areas of limestone grassland, with plenty of characteristic herbaceous species including Horseshoe Vetch Hippocrepis comosa, Small Scabious Scabiosa columbaria, Hairy Violet Viola hirta, Carline Thistle Carlina vulgaris, Stemless Thistle Cirsium acaule, Field Mouse-ear Cerastium arvense, Clustered Bellflower Campanula glomeratum, Spring Sedge Carex caryophyllea, Salad Burnet Poterium sanguisorba, Rock-rose Helianthemum nummularium, Common Milkwort Polygala vulgaris and Hairy Hawkbit Leontodon hispidus.

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Field Mouse-ear

The grass flora was also very varied, with frequent Tor-grass Brachypodium pinnatum agg., Upright Brome Bromopsis erecta, Sheep’s Fescue Festuca ovina and Quaking Grass Briza media and smaller amounts of Hairy Oat-grass Avenula pubescens, Meadow Oat-grass Avenula pratensis and Sweet Vernal-grass Anthoxanthum odoratum.

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The emerging flowers of Quaking Grass

The two limestone quarries yielded a number of species of open limestone swards including Blue Fleabane Erigeron acris, Ploughman’s Spikenard Inula conyzae, Little Mouse-ear Cerastium semidecandum, Autumn Gentian Gentianella amarella and Squirrel-tail Fescue Vulpia bromoides.

Areas of longer grassland grading into scrub produced other species of interest including locally frequent Wild Liquorice Astragalus glycyphyllos and scattered plants of Grey Sedge Carex divulsa subsp. divulsa and Woolly Thistle Cirsium eriophorum. Several Twayblade Neottia ovata were found in a more shaded area, growing near Blackcurrant Ribes nigrum and redcurrant Ribes rubrum.

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Twayblade

Several ancient woodland indicators were recorded from the plantation woodland, including Wood Speedwell Veronica montana, Wood Sorrel Oxalis acetosella and Yellow Archangel Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. montanum. The plantation and woodyard also had several ‘garden escapes’ including Dame’s Violet Hesperis matronalis (first recorded here by Neil in 2016), Balm Melissa officinalis and Apple-mint Mentha x villosa.

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Dame’s Violet

We finished just before the rain arrived, having recorded a total of 220 species, with a significant number of new records for the tetrad. The total number of post-2000 taxa for the tetrad is now 259, which is c. 72% of the total. So a very worthwhile trip which has pushed TF02K into the ‘well-recorded’ category. And we also had excellent views of Dingy and Grizzled Skippers – always a bonus!

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Dingy Skipper
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Grizzled Skipper
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SLFG trip to Hill Holt Wood and Stapleford village

Last Sunday the SLFG were recording just south of Lincoln. In the morning a large group of us walked round Hill Holt Wood, which proved to have a very interesting flora with a mix of ancient woodland species, acid grassland species and garden escapes.

It’s not shown as ancient woodland on MAGIC, but we added a suite of species to the site list that suggest it really should be! These include Moschatel Adoxa moschatellina, which was frequent in several areas, Goldilocks Ranunculus auricomus (only one plant), Yellow Archangel Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. montanum, Hairy Woodrush Luzula pilosa, Woodruff Galium odoratum, Common Figwort Scrophularia nodosa, Hairy Brome Bromopsis ramosa and Giant Fescue Schedonorus gigantea.

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Hairy Woodrush Luzula pilosa

Other interesting species recorded included Buffalo Currant Ribes odoratum, a new county record (though almost certainly planted) and the first record of Pill Sedge Carex pilulifera for Tetrad SK86Q since Joan Gibbons recorded it near Norton Disney in 1978.

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Buffalo-currant Ribes odoratum

A somewhat smaller group recorded in Stapleford village in the afternoon. We started at the Village Green, where a conservation project has established species-rich grassland and a pond in an area of former scrub and plantation woodland. This area had a good range of neutral grassland species including a rather surprising population of Fritillary Fritillaria meleagris which appeared to be naturalised.

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Fritillary Fritillaria meleagris

The other area of interest was the margin of a rape field next to the Church Lane footpath. Here there was a sizable population of Medium-flowered Winter-cress Barbarea intermedia, a species that seems to be on the increase, growing with good numbers of Bur-chervil Anthriscus caucalis, a rather scarce species in VC53.

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Medium-flowered Winter-cress Barbarea intermedia
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Bur-chervil Anthriscus caucalis

In total we recorded 180 species from Hill Holt Wood (SK86Q) and 162 species from Stapleford (SK85Y), bringing both tetrads into the ‘well-recorded’ category. A good result from a day that was also great fun.

Horbling & Math and Elsea Woods

I recently spent a couple of hours recording in the vicinity of Horbling and Spanby (TF13D and E), which was quite hard work in the blustery wind. Though some verges had plenty of Cowslip Primula veris, Lesser Celandine Ficaria verna, Common Knapweed Centaurea nigra agg. and Germander Speedwell Veronica chamaedrys, variety was rather lacking. However it was good find another couple of colonies of Crosswort Cruciata laevipes.

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On my way back home I dropped into Math and Elsea Wood, a site I’ve driven past many times but never visited. I hadn’t planned to do much recording, but couldn’t resist making lists for the two tetrads it covers: TF01Z and TF11E.

Though I wasn’t hunting particularly hard I found a good population of Herb-paris Paris quadrifolia near the stream, growing with several Twayblade Neottia ovata as well as many of the other classic ancient woodland species.

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The strip west of the A15 that falls in TF11E proved particularly interesting, and I found Neil Harris‘s population of Moschatel Adoxa moschatellina, updated records for Ramsons Allium ursinum and Sweet Woodruff Galium odoratum, and found another small population of Herb-paris (new for the tetrad) and a larger population of Purple Small-reed Calamagrostis canescens (new to the the site).

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A very satisfying couple of hours in a stunning wood!!

North and South Hykeham, 14th April 2018

On a fine spring Saturday, Pete and I trekked the streets of North and South Hykeham, a very under-recorded pair of tetrads which perhaps suffer from their proximity to Whisby Nature Park. As expected, we recorded our fair share of ‘urban species’ and garden escapes, including a small population of Tasteless Stonecrop Sedum sexangulare, the second site in VC53, which contributed to totals of 173 species in North Hykeham and 156 species in South Hykeham, most of which were new.

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Tasteless Stonecrop growing with Common Whitlow-grass

Although our route was mostly urban streets, remnants of semi-natural grassland had survived development. Several  lawns and green spaces had good quantities of Field Wood-rush Luzula campestris,  Mouse-ear Hawkweed Pilosella officinarum, Sheep’s Sorrel Rumex acetosella, Parsley-piert Aphanes arvensis agg. and Common Stork’s-bill Erodium cicutarium. One particularly fine example also had many plants of Wild Pansy Viola tricolor.

Pavement cracks and gutters were also quite fruitful hunting grounds with frequent Buck’s-horn Plantain Plantago coronopus, Lesser Chickweed Stellaria pallida and a couple of populations of Little Mouse-ear Cerastium semidecandrum. This habitat also provided two new vice-county records.

The most exciting was a substantial population of Pink Shepherd’s-purse Capsella rubella, a species I’ve been looking out for since I realised it had been recorded at Skegness in February. All the very dwarf plants we saw were growing in pavement cracks and in a  gutter. The sepals were mostly deep pink or at least margined with pink, and the petals had a creamy tinge. The best distinguishing character is the capsule, which is usually reddish and has concave margins, rather than the straight margin seen in Shepherd’s-purse C. bursa-pastoris. I suspect that this species may be overlooked, so do keep an eye out in urban areas.

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Pink Shepherd’s -purse growing in a gutter with Lesser Chickweed at the base
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Closer view of Pink Shepherd’s-purse showing pink sepals and creamy petals.
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An individual plant, only about 3cm in height, showing characteristic shape of capsules.

The other new record is likely to be short-lived – a single plant of Sorbaria Sorbaria sorbifolia growing in the car-park of Pennel’s Garden Centre, which does a very good cup of coffee and Bakewell Tart!

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A rather short-lived Sorbaria?

 

Twyford Wood

Twyford Wood has been visited several times during the past few years, by both the SLFG and independent botanists. Most of the wood is located in SK92L, but two small areas of woodland jut out into SK92G, a tetrad which has little other woodland. It was quite a trek to get to these small areas but it proved worthwhile as we were able to re-record quite a good number of ancient woodland species for SK92G including Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa, Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta, Woodruff Galium odoratum, Three-veined Sandwort Moehringia trinervia and a thriving population of Early Purple-orchid Orchis mascula. We even added a few woodland species including Early Dog-violet Viola reichenbachiana, Common Valerian Valeriana officinalis and False-brome Brachypodium sylvaticum.

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Early Purple-orchid rosettes

However, the most interesting species we found was growing on one of the war-time concrete paths. In an area of dense moss there was an Erophila plant that just looked a bit different from the norm. When I examined it closely it proved to be Glabrous Whitlow-grass Erophila glabrescens, which has much less hairy leaves than Common Whitlow-grass Erophila verna, the upper surface being quite a glossy green. It also has a longer petiole. This is the third record for VC53, the others being from Morkery Wood (where there are similar concrete paths) and Swanholme Lakes, where it was growing on a sandy substrate.

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Glabrous Whitlow-grass; the whole plant is about 2.5cm across

Bassingthorpe and Bitchfield

An unexpectedly warm and sunny day provided the prompt to do more recording in VC53, so on 5th April Pete and I decided to head to the villages of Bassingthorpe and Bitchfield, both of which had a reasonable number of records, but very few for spring species.

Bassingthorpe is a quaint little hamlet, botanically rather dull, although there was Star-of-Bethlehem Ornithogalum umbellatum sens. lat. in the churchyard and an established (though rather sickly looking) stand of Broad-leaved Bamboo Sasa palmata by the stream. The neighbouring hamlet of Westby, which is in the same tetrad (SK92U), proved slightly more interesting. One area of disturbed ground had a thriving population of Corn Parsley Petroselinum segetum, and a north-facing brick wall had a veritable array of self-seeded garden escapes including Lungwort Pulmonaria officinalis and Oriental Poppy Papaver pseudoorientale!

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Lungwort growing in a north-facing brick wall
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Luxuriant leaves of Corn Parsley

Bitchfield (SK 92Z) was not particularly thrilling either, but the verges were full of Lesser Celandine Ficaria verna subsp. fertilis, Sweet Violet Viola odorata, multi-coloured Primrose Primula vulgaris and naturalised Balkan Anemone Anemone blanda which were attracting Hairy-footed Flower-bees Anthophora plumipes and the first Bee Fly Bombylius major of the season. We sneaked into a tiny area of ancient woodland on the monad boundary, which had swathes of Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta and Yellow Archangel Lamastrum galeobdolon subsp. montanum, as well as a couple of Scarlet Elf Cups Sarcoscypha sp. growing on mossy twigs.

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White Sweet Violet Viola odorata var. dumetorum
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Scarlet Elf Cup Sarcoscypha sp.

So, while not a wildly interesting visit, we added plenty of spring species, and both tetrads are now fairly thoroughly recorded.

Sedgebrook and Barrowby

I had to drop Pete at the Saltersford Water Treatment Works yesterday, for a meeting regarding an entomological survey of springs and seepages along the Witham valley that he and my son are doing for the Environment Agency this year. While they were meeting I went into SK83 to do some recording.

I spent a couple of hours in Sedgebrook (SK83N) where I recorded 145 species including a small population of Bur Chervil Anthriscus caucalis, growing with Alkanet Anchusa arvensis on some bare soil under a hedge. This is an annual species, normally found on arable margins and has characteristically pale green foliage in early spring; the leaves are glabrous above but with sharp white hairs beneath. It’s quite a local species in VC53 with less than a dozen post-2000 records.

I then did some recording in the southern half of Barrowby (SK83X) which lacked spring records. Despite showers of rain I managed a decent list. The highlights were a huge patch of Crosswort Cruciata laevipes, about 6 x 1 m on The Drift, a couple of plants of American Wintercress Barbarea verna on a disturbed road-side verge (a new species to me) and Musk Stork’s-bill Erodium moschatum on the north side of Hedge Field Road, at the eastern end. There are only three post-2000 records of American Wintercress in VC53, all in the Grantham area.

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A rather damp specimen of Musk Stork’s-bill, a species which has increased since 2000, but thrives best in sites with a south-facing aspect.
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A basal leaf of American Wintercress, which has 4-10 pairs of lateral leaflets, which are narrow or equal in width to the terminal leaflet.

 

I also found a well-grown Brassicaceae plant that I didn’t recognise, growing in a pavement crack at the base of a wall, clearly having seeded from the adjacent garden. After a little research I think it’s Alyssum montanum, a European rock-garden plant that tolerates dry soils and drought. It apparently only has one other dot on the BSBI map, from Shrewsbury!

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Plant and  close-up of flowers of Alyssum montanum

Early spring in some south-west Lincolnshire woodlands

Pete and I spent a few hours recording in several tetrads in SK92 before the rain arrived today. Our main aims were to re-find two populations of Moschatel Adoxa moschatellina and visit the main Lincolnshire site for Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem Gagea lutea.

It was a successful expedition – Moschatel was abundant in both its former locations, Honey Pot Lane and the woodland associated with Lobthorpe protected RSV, which also had sheets of Ramsons Allium ursinum and a number of patches of Wood Speedwell, a new record for the tetrad.

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We also found Sanicle Sanicula europaea, a species listed as Near Threatened in England,  in two new tetrads.

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Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem was doing very well, with quite a few small colonies found away from the main population, and plenty of flowers – well worth a visit in the next couple of weeks.

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SLFG visit to Haddington and Auborn, 24th March 2018

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The first meeting of the year was well attended with eleven botanists attending for all or part of the day. Despite the threatening clouds, the rain stayed away and we had very  productive trip. Spring is very late this year and we didn’t see many flowers, but this gave lots of opportunity for practicing our vegetative identification, and over the course of the day we recorded a surprisingly high total of 185 species.

Haddington, where we spent the morning, proved the richer of the two villages, and we recorded 145 species, bringing the total number of species recorded since 2000 to 172. There was some very well-structured ridge-and-furrow grassland between the village and the River Witham which had a good population of Pignut Conopodium majus, but otherwise was fairly typical of agriculturally improved grassland. The richest area of grassland was in Haddington churchyard, where, among other species, we found Crosswort Cruciata laevipes, Mouse-ear Hawkweed Pilosella officinarum, more Pignut, Common Sorrel Rumex acetosa and Sweet Violet Viola odorata, which was being examined critically by some of the party in the above image.

As well as Snowdrop Galanthus nivalis, Green Snowdrop Galanthus woronowii and Great Snowdrop Galanthus elwesii, we also found a few clumps of Star-of-Bethlehem Ornithogalum umbellatum sens. lat. in one corner of the churchyard, which prompted some discussion about the differences between its leaves and the leaves of Early Crocus Crocus tommasinianus and other crocus species. Although they all have white stripes down the centre of their linear leaves, there are many differences which make them easy to tell apart. Ornithogalum umbellatum forms a dense upright clump, the leaves have a U-shaped cross-section and are more-or-less parallel throughout their length before contracting abruptly to a hooded tip with a pale hydathode. They have a fairly firm texture and there is no raised midrib below. By contrast Crocus leaves taper gently to a point with no visible hydathode, have a less rigid structure and tend to form a flatter star-shaped clump. There is a very noticeable raised midrib on the back of the leaf. It’s worth knowing how to recognise the leaves of Ornithogalum, which has a scattered distribution on many Lincolnshire road verges and is easiest to record in spring.

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Crocus tommasinianus on left, with the more upright leaves of Ornithogalum umbellatum on the right
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The abruptly contracted, hooded leaf tip of Ornithogalum umbellatum
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The tapered leaf tip of Crocus tommasinianus

The village of Auborn wasn’t quite as varied and we only recorded 113 species from this tetrad, but many of these were new and brought the total number of post-2000 species to a respectable 146. Again, the churchyard was the most interesting area and contained Pignut and Common Sorrel, though it wasn’t as rich as the churchyard at Haddington. However, there was a naturalised population of Pleated Snowdrop Galanthus plicatus, only the second record for VC53, which meant that we’d recorded all four widespread species of snowdrop during the day.

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Pleated Snowdrop Galanthus plicatus

SLFG trip to Thurlby

We were blessed with wonderful spring weather for our first field meeting of the year in Thurlby on 3rd April, much more pleasant than our visit to Heckington in 2016. We started at St. Firmin’s Church and recorded in TF11D before lunch. This tetrad has been visited quite a few times since 2000, but never in early spring. Consequently we were able to update records for species such as Greater Stitchwort Stellaria holostea from the churchyard and Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa from Park Wood, neither of which had been recorded since the 1980’s. We added 45 new species for the tetrad, including Field Wood-rush Luzula campestris from the churchyard, Lesser Chickweed Stellaria pallida which was frequent in drought-prone mown grass and pavement edges, Maidenhair Spleenwort Asplenium trichomanes from a shaded wall and Dog’s Mercury Mercurialis perennis from Park Wood (I can’t think how that was overlooked previously!). We were also pleased to find a rosette of a Bee Orchid Ophrys apifera on a mown grass verge.

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After a very comfortable lunch at Mary-Anne’s house a smaller group of us headed into the village to record in TF01Y, another tetrad with a good number of post-2000 records, but originating solely from Dole Wood. As expected, we recorded many garden escapes and ‘village’ species, adding 64 new species to the tetrad. It was good to find some rather diverse road verges with a mix of neutral grassland indicator species such as Cuckooflower Cardamine pratensis, Field Wood-rush, Meadow Buttercup Ranunculus acris, Bulbous Buttercup Ranunculus bulbosus, Common Sorrel Rumex acetosa and Mouse-ear Hawkweed Pilosella officinarum. Highlights among the garden escapes were a small population of Fairy Foxglove Erinus alpinus high on a stone wall and a patch of Yellow Nonea Nonea lutea under a hedge.

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In total we recorded 155 species from TF11D and 132 species from TF01Y, and saw 222 different taxa during the course of the day. A very good start to the year, and a gentle way to exercise those identification circuits that are often a bit rusty at the start of the year!